open and closed signs - white chalk handwriting on two small slate blackboards in grunge painted wood frames

Open Adoption vs Closed Adoption

When thinking about your adoption plan, one of the most important parts to consider is whether you prefer an open or closed adoption.

The following is a comparison of the differences between open and closed adoption, all of which are possible to include in your adoption plan, but not required:

Open Adoption

  • Get to know the adoptive parents before the adoption
  • Continue your relationship with the adoptive parents after the adoption
  • Have a relationship with your child
  • Receive pictures of your child
  • Know identifying information about the family: names, address, phone numbers, personal email addresses, social media profiles
  • Have personal visits periodically throughout the year
  • Stay up to date on any medical issues with the adoptive parents or your child

These are all characteristics of an open adoption, and the more you request, the more open your adoption will be.

Closed Adoption

  • Select an adoptive family without getting to know them
  • Have no interaction with the adoptive parents after the adoption
  • Have no contact with your child
  • Learn only basic information about the adoptive family, such as first names, the state in which they live, and non-personal email addresses
  • Receive no updates about the adoptive parents or your child

These are all characteristics of a closed adoption. The more that are featured in your adoption plan, the more closed your adoption becomes.

Open vs. Closed Adoption and Everything in Between

It’s important to remember that all adoptions look different from one another and include varying degrees of contact. While some adoptions are completely open and some are completely closed, what about the adoptions that are neither fully open or closed?

For these adoptions that fall somewhere in the middle, we often refer to them as “semi-open adoptions,” which typically include a mediated call with the family before the adoption, picture and letter correspondence after the adoption, and interaction at the hospital during the time of placement.

How Do I Know Whether I Should Choose Open or Closed Adoption?

You will be matched with a family based on many different factors, including the level of openness you are seeking. Thus, it is highly recommended that you decide early on the type of adoption relationship you want to share with the adoptive parents and your child.

So, if you decide you want a closed adoption and you are matched with a family who is also seeking a closed adoption, you cannot later change your mind after the birth of your baby and decide you want visits with the family and child.

Before you begin searching for a family, ask yourself the following questions to help you determine whether you want an open or closed adoption:

  • Can I only go through with this decision if I’m able to see my child again?
  • Do I just want picture and letter updates of my child, or do I want to actually visit my child?
  • Will I be able to move on with my life if I have contact with the adoptive family and my child?
  • How much do I want to get to know the adoptive parents before the adoption?
  • How much interaction do I want with the adoptive parents at the hospital?
  • Do I want to interact with the adoptive family on my own or with an adoption social worker present?

Asking yourself these questions should give you an idea of the type of adoption relationship that is best for your situation.

Types of Contact Available in Open Adoption

There are various types of contact you may share with the adoptive parents and your child. Depending on the type of adoption you choose to pursue will determine which types of contact you will engage in.

Semi-Open Adoption

Phone Calls Before Placement – Help you better get to know the adoptive parents. A social worker will be on the phone to help keep the conversation moving and to interject when necessary.

Email Exchange Before and After Placement – Allows you to continue to get to know the adoptive parents and to provide updates to one another without talking on the phone. You may set up a separate email account just for interaction with the adoptive parents.

Pictures and Letters After Placement – Updates of the child sent periodically throughout the year. Sent to the adoption agency, which then forwards it to you in an effort to maintain privacy.

Visit Before Placement – A meeting with the adoptive couple, possibly mediated by your adoption social worker. This is a good chance for you to get to know the adoptive family and maybe even tour the hospital in preparation for your labor and delivery.

Hospital Interaction – May meet the adoptive family in person for the first time at the hospital. Prior to this time, you will talk with your social worker and determine how much you want to visit with the adoptive family.

Open Adoption

Phone Calls Before and After PlacementGet to know the adoptive parents before the adoption and continue talking with them and/or your child after the adoption. May use a social worker for the first phone call, but she may not be needed once you and the adoptive parents become more comfortable.

Email Exchange Before and After Placement – An effective way to stay in touch with one another in-between phone calls and/or visits.

Pictures and Letters After Placement – The adoptive family may send you pictures and letters of your child throughout the year.

Hospital Interaction – Visit with the adoptive parents at the hospital. In an open adoption, this interaction will often be more natural and less structured than in a semi-open adoption.

Visits Before and After Placement – You may visit with the adoptive family before the adoption and even after the adoption – including visits with your child. This is often how most people define an “open adoption.”

* In a closed adoption, there is no communication between expecting mothers and adoptive parents

Just as any other relationship, adoption relationships may naturally increase or decrease in communication over time. Your adoption may shift from a semi-open adoption to an open adoption, or an open adoption to a closed adoption – it all depends on a mutual agreement between you and the adoptive parents.

Choosing an open or closed adoption is entirely your decision, and the family you are matched with will reflect the type of adoption you are seeking. Give consideration to both options and decide which makes the most sense for you and your baby.